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N.J. ad campaign capitalizes on Cinderella Jets

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HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (1/20/10)--The New Jersey Credit Union League's (NJCUL) "Banking You Can Trust" consumer awareness ads will air Sunday on two stations during the New York Jets AFC title game. The ads will air on 1160AM and 1310AM. Throughout the game, five commercials will broadcast on each station, four during game play and one during pre- or post-game discussion, said the league. "The Jets have been an underdog story here. They play in New Jersey and have a big New Jersey fan base so we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity," said league President/CEO Paul Gentile. The league has amped up its "Banking You Can Trust" campaign for 2010, including airing spots on cable TV and radio, publishing in The New York Times, traveling via NJ Transit and sponsoring Rutgers University sports. "There has never been a more important time to tell the credit union story. Consumers are anxious for alternatives. As member-owned cooperatives with no outside shareholders to please, credit unions are a compelling alternative," Gentile said. While some may look askance at the use of the word "banking" in a credit union message, Gentile said that "Banking You Can Trust" is the right message. "We first need to build awareness about credit unions," he said. "You can't brand something that isn't known. By using the term 'banking' we instantly tell consumers what we do. Credit unions certainly are not banks, but we offer 'banking' services. It's what we do," he said. Gentile urged credit unions to "use common language that consumers understand and not try to confuse them with terms like 'shares' and that they have to 'join.' And 'trust' of course is what credit unions are all about. For us in New Jersey, 'Banking You Can Trust' is the right message."

California CUs involved in three mergers

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (1/20/10)--The California Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) has approved three mergers of credit unions, including one that News Now reported last month. According to the DFI's Monthly Bulletin the mergers, which were voluntary, included:
* Printing & Publishing Employees CU, Riverside, merged with and into Printing Industries CU, a $27 million asset credit union Los Angeles, effective Nov. 30. * Vernon/Commerce CU, Commerce, merged into $82 million asset Pasadena Service FCU, effective Nov. 30. * The third merger, effective Dec. 3, was El Futuro CU, Porterville, merging into $350 million asset Self-Help FCU, Durham, N.C.

CUs unite raise 206161 for quake victims

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MADISON, Wis., and WASHINGTON (1/20/10)--Donations to credit unions' disaster relief fund to help colleagues and members affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti continue to stream in at a steady pace. The total contributed as of 2 p.m. CT Tuesday was $206,161, said Valerie Breunig, executive director of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, the international charitable arm of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). That total is roughly $65,000 more than the $142,000 the movement contributed as of Friday. U.S. credit unions, individuals, and organizations contributed $133,431 of that total, via the National Credit Union Foundation's (NCUF) CUAid Disaster Relief fund through, said Jill Stevenson, of NCUF's marketing and communications department. That compared to a $98,736 total Friday. Haiti's recovery faces almost insurmountable challenges. Its pier at Port-au-Prince, the country's capital, which was basically leveled by the 7.0 magnitude quake, has collapsed and ships can't deliver supplies the usual way. Many people are starving and without water. Most are without homes and living in tent cities. Many have lost family members as the death toll climbs. Credit unions' funds will go to food and water, and later bricks and mortar, said WOCCU, which will disburse the relief. A team from WOCCU arrived in Haiti Tuesday to assist its Haiti project team and it began delivering needed supplies. (See News Now's related story, "WOCCU delivers critical supplies to Haiti team," for WOCCU's three-step plan to evaluate needs and provide assistance.) Haiti has an active credit union movement. More than 175 credit unions serve 404,090 members. To support Haiti's credit unions and members through the international credit union disaster fund, make payments, via check, credit card or wire to: Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions Inc., 5710 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705, USA. Donations also can be made online with a credit card at For wire transfer information, contact Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions at 608-395-2055 or via e-mail Please indicate the donation is designated for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. U.S. credit unions also can support WOCCU's relief efforts by donating through the NCUF's CU Aid at In addition to their efforts for their credit unions colleagues and members, credit unions have other efforts underway for broader relief organizations. Some are organizing fundraising for the American Red Cross International Response Fund. Redwood CU, Santa Rosa, Calif., said all its branches are accepting contributions to assist victims. Horizon FCU, Williamsport, Pa., also placed canisters at all its branches and sent an e-mail to all its select employee groups about its collection (Life is a Highway Jan. 19).

CU System briefs (01/19/2010)

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* PANAMA CITY, Fla. (1/20/10)--Tyndall FCU announced it reached the $1 billion assets milestone at the end of December. The credit union was founded as Tyndall Air Force Base CU in January 1956. During the past 54 years, it expanded operations and now has 10 branches across Northwest Florida and Southeast Alabama. Jim Warren, president/CEO of Tyndall FCU, attributed the milestone to "hard work of our employees, prudent guidance from our board of directors, and most of all, our member-owners, who have trusted us as their financial provider." ... * FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. (1/20/10)--Teachers FCU (TFCU), based in Long Island, N.Y., has received approval from the National Credit Union Administration to become a community-chartered credit union. TFCU, which is the largest credit union in terms of members on Long Island, sought the charter so it could expand its financial services to a wider area and a larger base of residents and businesses. The charter also will help eliminate confusion about eligibility for membership, since it serves more than teachers. "The expansion of the TFCU community charter will mean much broader access of our services across both Nassau and Suffolk Counties," said Robert G. Allen, TFCU president/CEO ... * DULUTH, Ga. (1/20/10)--Cooperative Services Inc. (CSI), a credit union service organization (CUSO) founded by the six largest credit unions in Georgia and Georgia Central CU, announced it is paying a patronage refund totaling $300,000. The CUSO provides payment services to more than 140 credit unions. Its transition to branch capture in 2009, plus its collaborations with other states for image technology, significantly influenced savings, said CSI."We hope to continue returning earnings in upcoming years as a way to show our thanks and appreciation," said Mike Mercer, president/CEO of CSI ... * GREENSBORO, N.C. (1/20/10)--Two staffers are leaving the North Carolina Credit Union League, one to retire and one for a position
in Tennessee. Kim Bohannon, the league's vice president of compliance and risk management, has accepted a position with TVA Employees CU in Knoxville, Tenn., where she will serve as the risk management officer at the $745 million asset credit union. Jeanne Couchois, who joined the league in 2009 to oversee the compliance specialist program, will manage the department temporarily, beginning at the end of the month. Jim Siler, who formerly headed up the league's audit department, retired on Dec. 31. He had been with the audit team since March 19, 2001. Prior to that he was controller of Scholl America in Gibsonville ... * KENSINGTON, Md. (1/20/10)--Signal Financial FCU, based in Kensington, Md., has partnered with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association to offer the "Share the Road" Visa card program. The $271 million asset credit unions said the affinity card will promote advocacy for safer streets in the community. For each transaction made with the card, Signal Financial will contribute two cents toward advocacy for safer streets. A portion of the interest on the "Share the Road" Visa cards also will be contributed toward advocacy for safer streets, say the credit union's website ... * BURLINGTON, Vt. (1/20/10)--Cheryl Fatnassi, interim CEO, has been named CEO/president of Burlington, Vt.-based Opportunities CU, according to the Association of Vermont Credit Unions (Newslines Express Jan. 15). Fatnassi was chief operations officer for Opportunities until March 2008, when she became interim CEO after the retirement of the credit union's founder, Caryl Stewart. With more than 29 years working in financial services, Fatnassi was a former senior vice president for IT Systems at Banknorth and had previously managed all aspects of technology and retail banking, Community Reinvestment Act and compliance ...

Ohio Foundation grants totaled 213000 in 09

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/20/10)--The Ohio Credit Union Foundation said it awarded grants totaling $213,000 in 2009, with a record number designated for financial education programs and initiatives--the foundation’s primary area of focus. More than $139,000 was awarded for financial education projects, including:
* A distance learning Biz Kid$ workshop for educators; * Workshops based on the Credit Union National Association’s Home and Family Finance Radio show; * Production of a financial education board game; and * Two reality day events with more than 900 high school students participating.
Also, 39 professional development grants, totaling more than $41,000, helped credit union staff and volunteers receive training (eLumination Newsletter, Jan. 13). About $15,000 in disaster relief training helped credit union employees and members affected by brushfires in Australia and flooding in El Salvador. And $5,000 supported a modest-means outreach initiative in Northwest Ohio. The foundation board of trustees established a $195,000 fundraising goal for 2010.

PCUA asks CUs to support robbery bill

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/20/10)--Pennsylvania Senate Bill 605, commonly referred to as the “Robbery Bill,” is closer to becoming law, says the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA). The bill would expand the definition of robbery of a financial institution to include verbal or written threats. The offense would be moved from a misdemeanor with no mandatory sentencing to a felony. The legislation passed the State Senate last year and is waiting for consideration by the State House Appropriations Committee, said PCUA (Life is a Highway Jan. 19). The association said it has asked key state committee and house members for a speedy passage of the legislation during a time when robberies are increasing dramatically. “The association recognizes credit unions’ grave concern of the recent and growing number of robberies in the Commonwealth,” said PCUA President/CEO Jim McCormack. He cited the latest robberies in Western Pennsylvania and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reaching out to assist those credit unions. PCUA is “working diligently to see that this legislation is enacted quickly so credit unions and their employees will have additional protection from these traumatic experiences,” he added. The association’s appeal comes as the FBI has asked the Pittsburgh Chapter for an emergency meeting about a rash of robberies in the Pittsburgh area, the association said. A meeting will be held Jan. 27. The FBI said it believes that credit unions are prime robbery targets, the association said.

WOCCU delivers critical supplies to Haiti team

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (1/20/10)--Food and water--and later bricks and mortar--will be purchased with funds donated to the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. Meanwhile, key WOCCU staff arrived in Haiti Tuesday to deliver much-needed supplies for WOCCU's 16-member staff in Haiti.
Click to view larger image A Haitian woman is shown in better times, before the Jan. 12 earthquake that left an estimated one million people homeless. The photo was taken by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) staff during a previous visit. WOCCU has a 16-member staff in its Haitian program. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
WOCCU has begun a preliminary assessment of the devastation caused by the Jan. 12 earthquake--which registered 7.0 on the Richter Scale and was the hardest to hit Haiti in more than 200 years--and its impact on WOCCU's program in Haiti and the credit unions it serves. The evaluation will be managed by Dave Richardson, the WOCCU senior manager who oversees the Haiti program, and Greta Greathouse, the program's chief of party who manages operations on the ground in Haiti. Richardson and Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer, entered Haiti Tuesday to deliver supplies to the project's staff. W
The World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU)'s plan for Haiti includes assisting staff, providing general relief for Haiti's people, and helping rebuild the country's credit union program, said Dave Richardson, who oversees WOCCU's Haiti program.
OCCU's team is in contact with field workers from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)--which financed WOCCU's three-year Haiti program launched in July--to assess the situation and address immediate staff needs. "Our first thought in disaster situations is to stabilize our staff and provide them with the basics of food, water, clothing and a place to sleep," Richardson said. "Our second step is to help the public with general relief, and we have chosen to work with Food for the Poor, based on the quick and efficient response they have demonstrated in disaster situations," he said. "Our third step is to find a temporary work space to replace our devastated building. We will be working on that this week," Richardson added. Many of WOCCU's past recovery efforts have focused on rebuilding credit unions that were destroyed in disasters. The approach not only assists credit unions with their losses, but enables the credit unions, in turn, to help their members and the communities in which they live rebound, said WOCCU. "Once WOCCU is able to assess all credit union damage, we will begin a formal rebuilding program to get credit unions back on their feet and assist them in helping as many members as possible," said Richardson. "Those efforts will include providing assistance to rebuild credit unions as necessary, training credit union staff to implement emergency loan programs and helping them implement crisis management strategies," he added. Richardson has been with WOCCU since 1987 and currently manages WOCCU programs in Haiti and the Philippines. He also was responsible in helping develop the PEARLS business management software system used by various WOCCU programs. To support WOCCU's relief efforts on behalf of Haiti's credit unions and their members, credit unions can give these ways:
* Donate via check, credit card or wire to:

Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions Inc.

5710 Mineral Point Road

Madison, WI 53705

* Make donations online with a credit card at * For wire transfer information, contact: Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, 608-395-2055 or e-mail Please indicate that your donation is for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. * U.S. credit unions can also support WOCCU's relief efforts by donating through the National Credit Union Foundation's CUAid system at
Haiti has 175 credit unions and more than 404,000 credit union members, according to WOCCU statistics

Wisconsin annual report notes CU growth benefits

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (1/20/10)--Wisconsin credit unions, owned by 2.2 million member-owners, saved state residents almost $200 million on a full range of financial services last year, according to the 2009 Annual Report for Wisconsin Credit Unions from the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Membership in credit unions in the state also grew by 2.39% in the 12 months ending in September 2009--an increase that’s more than double the rate of state population growth and nearly double the average rate of membership growth over the past decade, the league added. While for-profit banks’ asset and loan levels declined during the year, according to the Credit Union National Association, not-for-profit credit unions saw growth in both those areas, 9.26% and 5.3% respectively. That came as no surprise to league President/CEO Brett Thompson, who said that credit unions topped consumer trust surveys in 2009 despite rampant cynicism about the financial industry. Thompson attributes that to credit unions’ member-ownership structure with no outside investors. “Credit unions stepped up to help struggling consumers in ways other lenders wouldn’t, precisely because their role is to help people, not chase profits,” he said in the report. “Members flocked to credit unions to refinance high-cost mortgages obtained elsewhere, consolidate debt, sort out budget issues or seek help when faced with a job loss or health problem,” said League Board Chair Kevin Hauser, CEO of Westby (Wis.) Co-op CU, in the report. He added that small business owners increasingly turned to credit unions for loans as other lenders cut back. “Many [entrepreneurs] had either been turned away by for-profit banks or--despite having significant equity, assets and stellar credit histories--had bank lines of credit inexplicably withdrawn, threatening job losses and even the viability of otherwise sound enterprises,” Hauser said. The annual report details successes of credit unions’ REAL Solutions initiative, which emphasizes the delivery of services to members and communities without regard for profit. Highlights included that Wisconsin credit unions:
* Offer better deals on basic financial services. A chart in the report details the almost $200 million in annual savings. * Offer small loans at lower rates--a preferred alternative to payday lenders. * Provide business loans that for-profit lenders deem “too small” or too unprofitable. The average credit union business loan in Wisconsin is just under $140,000. Credit unions’ losses are one-seventh that of Wisconsin banks’ business loans. * Make available safe, affordable mortgages. Credit unions have refinanced other lenders’ mortgages to prevent foreclosures. They’ve also set aside $43.8 million for Home Loan Relief Program (HLPR) loans. Credit unions also outperform other lenders in mortgages to low-income and minority borrowers. In 2008--the latest year for data--credit unions approved 71.8% of mortgage requests from low-income borrowers--compared to other lenders’ 53.5%--and 73.9% of mortgage requests for minority borrowers--compared to other lenders’ 46.2%. * Conduct outreach to new Americans through services such as translations, lower-cost wire transfers and participation in community events. * Provide free financial education and counseling through workshops by providing teaching materials and teachers’ training, and by investing in n 85 in-school credit union branches, run by students. Students have saved more than $1.6 million in their school branch accounts. * Offer community support and outreach. Credit unions save Wisconsin tax filers $16 million annually with free tax preparation and filing assistance. They partner with counties to offer low-interest loans that help single parents obtain cars or childcare so they can access or maintain employment. They encourage members to use EdVest--the state’s 529 college savings plan--to save for future educational needs. And they also participate in teaching Wisconsin citizens money matters as part of Money Smart Week Wisconsin.
The 2009 report also noted that Wisconsin credit unions won their third Governor’s Financial Literacy Award in four years. For the full report, use the resource link.

Author tells why she moved to Actors FCU

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NEW YORK (1/20/10)--Amy Sohn, author of the new novel Prospect Park West, has moved all her money to Actors FCU in New York. In a blog entry to the Huffington Post, she explained why. As a member of the Writers Guild of America, she is eligible to join Actor FCU. She first heard of it five years ago when she was looking to procure a car loan. A relative told her about good loan rates at credit unions, and she went to Actors, “liked the rates, joined immediately and was approved for the loan,” she wrote. She paid off her loan and kept a savings account with the credit union but continued her other banking at two large banks. That was before she became “furious” of banks’ treatment of their customers. “Here are some of the things I love about my credit union,” she added. “Their mortgage rates beat any rates quoted to me by my mortgage broker. They offer car loans, instrument loans, education loans, even plastic surgery loans (it's for actors, after all)-- and credit cards with fair terms, one even designed to help people who need to improve their credit. The minimum balance to have an account is $100. All of the fees, for stopped checks, overdraft, etc., are lower than you'd pay at a bank. Even the checkbooks are about a third less than what I paid at Chase. “When I call up my credit union, I get a real person on the phone, who is courteous, knowledgeable and helpful,” Sohn continued. “They have an extensive network of ATMs, soon to be getting larger, and I can deposit checks by mail. I enter information from my check online, and then my credit union credits me part of the deposit immediately, before they've even seen the check. “When I went into Chase to close my account, the banker didn’t even ask why I was going or make any attempt to keep me, not that it would have worked,” she added. “But his indifference was part of the problem. The fact that no one at my CU would be indifferent about my departure is part of the reason I love it. This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.” Sohn also advised readers to check the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Web locator or to call CUNA’s toll-free number to help them find a credit union. To read the blog posting, use the link.